Roger Federer lands first title in Shanghai

Roger Federer plays a backhand during yesterday's final against Gilles Simon. Picture: Getty Images

Roger Federer plays a backhand during yesterday's final against Gilles Simon. Picture: Getty Images

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Roger Federer claimed one of the few titles to have previously eluded him when he overcame a sluggish start to beat injured Frenchman Gilles Simon in the Shanghai Masters final.

The Swiss 17-times Grand Slam singles champion triumphed 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-2) to register his 23rd Masters Series title and first in China, where strong winds caused the roof on the Stadium Court to be closed.

The 33-year-old Federer let off a huge roar and threw both fists into the air after a battling Simon netted a return to hand the Swiss his fourth title of the year and the 81st of his career.

“It makes me very happy winning here because this tournament means a lot to me,” said Federer. “I’ve always enjoyed coming here. I’ve come close a couple of times, but I’ve always wanted to win it as a Masters 1000.

“I feel unbelievable prestige to win this event. Putting my hands on the trophy for the first time is a good feeling. I’m very happy with the way I’m playing.”

It had all begun so well for the unseeded Simon, who broke a sloppy, error-strewn Federer in the opening game and comfortably held firm until he felt the pressure of serving for the set at 5-4 and began to creak.

With his first serve and accurate groundstrokes deserting him, Federer had two break points but wasted the first with an alarmingly high 14th unforced error, only for Simon to hand him the game on the next point after netting a backhand.

A wobbling Simon fought off two set points on his next service game after finding his range with his first serve again to force a tiebreak with a booming ace as he refused to buckle in search of his first Masters Series title.

The world No 29 then had a set point of his own in the tiebreak but Federer came up with an unreturnable first serve to snuff out the danger before producing a near-perfect backhand winner down the line to take the breaker 8-6.

Simon, who had knocked out Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka and sixth-seed Tomas Berdych en route to the final, took a medical time out for treatment on a suspected groin problem at the end of the set and looked uncomfortable upon his return.

However, the Frenchman fought on admirably, digging himself out of some early holes to hold his six service games before threatening an unlikely break in the 11th game of the set.

Having struggled to make an impact on the Federer serve throughout the set, he fashioned two set points out of nowhere, only to waste both with groundstroke errors as Federer held on.

The Swiss then stepped it up in the breaker, firing some big serves and stunning winners to fashion four championship points with Simon folding on the first.

“He was just more opportunistic,” Simon said. “We had a close match. I had a set point in the first, two in the second.

“It’s just a few points deciding it, and he was always really good on these points. He’s always showing you that he is ready to be aggressive on every shot. So he keeps you under pressure.”

Federer, who will move above Rafa Nadal into second spot in the world rankings when they are updated today, has now won seven of the nine different Masters Series events, with only the clay court Monte Carlo and Rome tournaments eluding him.

Wawrinka, meanwhile, has become the fourth player to qualify for the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals.

The 29-year-old Swiss has enjoyed a career-best season in 2014, winning his maiden Grand Slam title, and he has accumulated enough points to guarantee his participation at the tournament in London in November.

He became the fourth player after Djokovic, Nadal and Federer to make the prestigious event.

“I’m extremely happy to be back in London,” said Wawrinka, who qualified for the semi-finals in his only appearance at the tournament last season.

“It was my dream and goal to qualify again this year after the great experience in 2013. It’s only my second time at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and being part of this great event remains a childhood dream for me.

“The atmosphere in London is one of a kind and it means a lot to me to be there together with the very best players of the world.”

Kei Nishikori, US Open winner Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic occupy the last four places in the standings, though David Ferrer, Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov still have a realistic chance of qualifying.

Three weeks remain for players to accumulate points to seal their place at the elite eight-player tournament.

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